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Board overreached with order to remove self-installed plumbing

A decision by the state's plumbing and gas-fitting board to order the removal of plumbing installed by a homeowner, without hearing any evidence on whether the removal was necessary, was an abuse of discretion, an appellate court in Massachusetts found April 25

(Meyer v. Nantucket Building Department).

Ernst Meyer, a resident of Nantucket, installed the offending plumbing in his house without either a permit or a professional license from the state plumber’s board. After learning of the DIY plumbing job, the Nantucket city plumbing inspector issued Meyer a cease-and-desist order, which required that Meyer have the work removed by a licensed plumber.

Meyer contested the order, and the appeals court, in a 2010 decision, overturned the removal requirement because the inspector had not inspected the work to prove that it was “unskilled or inferior,” as required by law, and sent the case back to the inspector.

The inspector then investigated the plumbing, declared it deficient, and again ordered it removed. Meyer appealed the decision to the state’s Board of Examiners of Plumbers and Gas Fitters. The board upheld the decision, but did so without hearing any evidence on whether the removal was necessary, and Meyer appealed again. The case eventually reached the Court of Appeals.

The appellate court reversed the board’s decision. Given the court’s earlier decision to reverse the order of the plumbing inspector for failure to inspect the plumbing work, wrote the judges, the board’s decision to uphold the removal order without deciding, for itself, that the order to totally remove the plumbing was supported by the deficiencies found by the inspector, was an abuse of discretion.

The case was remanded to the board.